Plain Weave

“A weave in which every thread alternately passes over and under the threads of the other system, and in which each thread weaves exactly opposite to the adjoining threads. Plain weave gives the simplest form of interlacing but it is used more than any other weave. It gives a greater number of intersections per unit space than any other weave and, other factors being equal, will give a stronger fabric. A great many ways of ornamenting and varying the weave are used; e.g., by using threads of different color, material, count or twist. Common examples of plain weave fabrics are sheeting, lawn, muslin, chiffon, etc. Other names for the plain weave are: tabby, calico, taffeta, etc.”
Callaway Textile Dictionary First Edition 1947

Plain Weave woven as drawn in or dented: number of weft shots=number of warp ends per inch Sampling from COE project done in 1976 Woven with 3/2 trevira. This sample has more body and would produce a heavier fabric. set at 12 ends per inch. A very firm fabric probably the best choice of set for an average fabric. 2 . set at 15 ends per inch. Woven with 3/2 trevira. set at 10 ends per inch. An extremely gauzy fabric resulted lacking in stability and body. Woven with 3/2 trevira. This fabric is beginning to have a warp faced appearance and take on a boardy feel. Woven with 3/2 trevira. set at 8 ends per inch. Woven with 3/2 trevira. This fairly loose weave is useful for letting the light come through and for a lighter weight fabric. set at 16 ends per inch.

it does not matter if it is done from the center out to the sides. forming a checkerboard pattern. Warp faced plain weave with pick up areas 3 . Another reference to plain weave is from the Haoyufa Technology & Trade Company where. few programs show numerals in their draw down diagrams but the norm is black squares in both warp and weft. they weave wire called Hollander (Dutch) Weave where the warp wires remain straight while the weft wires are plain woven to lie as close as possible against each other in “linen” weave. convention dictates that black indicates warp and white indicates weft but this does not always hold true. this is not how most of us read. from left to right or from right to left as long as it appears on the loom as shown in the diagram. but pattern weaving if not symmetrical must be done according to the diagram or it will not be successful. If the color area is shown in black. table or electronic 4 4 4 loom. The diagram on the right above is a plain weave structure threaded 4 on four shafts and treadled or used on a dobby. Although many of the older conventions used in weaving show the top to bottom method. The weaving industry and most modern weavers look at a diagram reading from left to right. Plain weave does not have a preference for direction. A man standing on his head is rather unusual! While many weavers still thread from right to left (probably because the loom is situated with light coming from the right or because it seems easier to thread heddles from right to left). A good program will allow the diagram to be read from top to bottom or vice versa.Plain weave is popularly called tabby by many weavers. the word leinwand meaning linen is used to indicate plain weave. In most computer weaving programs this is how color is depicted. this will not be successful if figures or lineal designs are used as they will appear upside down as the weaving progresses. The American Heritage Dictionary describes plain weave as a weave in which the filling threads and the warp threads interlace alternately. 4 4 4 4 1 2 1 2 1 4 4 2 3 4 threading. Similarly. in addition to their Plain and Twill Weave wire. When Relationship between the diagram and the actual thread interlacement (note the black squares or vertical bars indicate warp) When reading old European weaving books. 2 4 1 1 3 3 2 2 1 1 2 4 The diagrams above show plain weave formed by using only two shafts or sheds which are mainly found on a rigid heddle loom or a simple loom with only two shafts.) 4 Note that color bars appear above the threading or warp area and to the side of the treadling or weft area. The treadles would be 3 2 shown as they would be tied 1 up in the diagram above (trea1 dles shown in black squares 2 and used in the sequence 3 4 shown in the treadling area.

The tie up in the upper left corner will always 16 have to show every other shaft being lifted for the 20 first weft shot and opposite shafts being lifted for 24 the second weft shot.6 4 12 18 24 30 36 42 6 4 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 4 8 4 8 6 4 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 12 16 20 24 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 28 32 36 40 44 48 6 4 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 All of these plain weave drawdowns could be done 8 on two shafts but the examples show that they can 12 also be done on four or more even numbers of shafts. Of course. This is repeated throughout 28 the weaving. 12 4 12 6 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 4 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 6 4 8 4 8 12 16 12 16 20 24 20 28 32 36 40 44 24 28 32 36 4 48 . The numbers on top and beside the bars give the number of threads of each color to be used. substitution for the colors can be made at any time. The color bars show the sequence of colors to be used for both the warp and the weft.

This was done in 40/2 linen warp and weft with embellishment in silk and crêpe yarn. It has been reduced from its original size. This leno variation was done with 20/2 linen warp and weft set at 12 ends per inch. It is a process of crossing warp threads by hand or with a pick up stick and fixing the position with a weft thread. It has been reduced in size. This is 20/2 linen warp and weft with various fancy yarns for hand manipulated work. Embroidering on the loom or while the weaving progresses gives the fabric a stabilizing effects as the warp is under tension. Samples scanned from work done for the COE in Handweaving by Eleanor Best 5 . Weft bouquets such as the Danish Medallion can be done on the plain weave. Reduced in size. This method requires picking up the warp threads and is easier done if four shafts are used.Plain Weave Ornamentation A knowledge of hand manipulated weaving on plain weave background gives the opportunity of enhancing design without the need of many shafts. More lace done on the loom in this sample is Spanish lace made by interchanging sheds in plain weave and working the yarn back and forth over a group of warp threads. Reduced in size. The pattern above has been laid in on a plain weave ground of 20/2 linen warp and weft with Bernat Krysta.

Shadow Weaves or Log Cabin Patterns Many different patterns can be woven in plain weave by varying the color sequence in warp and weft. Adjacent heddles are used in the top draw down for each color but progressive heddles in a straight draw are used to thread the lower diagram. To do this the weft thread should be caught on each side around the outside warp threads otherwise they would just pull through and not remain in the shed. Computer programs vary in the way that they handle the information in their drawdowns. while others start at the left and proceed to the right.) The main difference is that 4 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 54 60 28 32 36 40 44 48 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 52 4 In the design above. By weaving the entire warp sequence of colors as drawn in. sections of the pattern form “blocks” in the overall pattern. threads in 32 and 33. A change occurs in the tie ups of the two draw downs when the second one weaves with shafts one and two together followed by three and four together so that two weft threads have to be thrown in the same shed. then proceeding with another sequence of colors and then doubling the colors and returning the original sequence to form the break in the weaving pattern. A good program will allow you to start where you wish usually by changing the preferences found within the program to your choice. Usually this is done by interrupting the color sequence by doubling one of the colors. 6 12 18 4 8 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 54 60 66 72 78 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 52 56 24 30 36 42 48 60 64 68 72 4 8 12 76 80 16 20 24 of the second repeat have been omitted in the repeat of the draw down below. The two draw downs in the next column are essentially the same as far as the patterns go (threads 66 to 78 56 60 64 6 one of the draw downs has been prepared for two shaft plain weaving while the other is arranged for four shaft plain weaving. but note that the treadling is done in a sequence beginning at the top and working down. 16 and 17 and the teal. The weft threads are done in the same order as the warp threads. . In the same manner some work from the bottom to the top in the treadling while others start at the top and work down. the maroon threads are repeated in warp threads. Some work from the right side to the left.

6 12 18 24 30 By interchanging the warp with the weft colors in different numerical groups. 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 6 12 18 24 30 4 8 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 12 16 20 24 28 32 Color plays an important part in 4 a successful plain weave 8 fabric. This means that WIF files are compatible with programs supporting this system. In 12 general. 8 All of the drawdowns found on these pages have been taken from the CD entitled Books and WIFs by Eleanor Best. 16 contrasting 20 colors will produce 24 the most 28 dramatic 32 effects.not in selection of weft sequence to change the effect as seen below. the result may be too subtle to warrant 6 12 18 24 30 the work in producing a handwoven 4 fabric. The above design has alternating two light and two darkwarps with two dark and two light wefts. the results may vary in the overall appearance of the design. WeaveMaker MI and SwiftWeave were used for the drawdowns done on the computer in WIF format. while the design below does the same except with four threads each. 7 . The book used in these designs is Patterns for Color. The grey areas seem to be outlined by the black and give the pattern an interlocking effect. 6 12 18 24 30 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 Some 12 experiment16 ing may be 20 necessary to produce 24 a special 28 effect as 32 the one seen here in black and grey. If the shades of the yarn are too close.

it may be reversed in color but In Scotland. 28 Just make 32 sure that 36 the threads 40 44 follow the 48 correct color order and that the tie up produces sheds for plain weave (usually 13 and 24. examples done in two 4 shafts can 8 be done in 12 four shafts 16 on a straight 20 threading 24 of 1. the variety in this type 4 of design8 ing can be 12 endless. 28 Color ef32 fects begin to form when odd numbers of threads are used or interchanged with odd and even 6 12 18 24 30 numbers. dark. light dark etc. 6 12 18 24 30 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 6 12 18 24 30 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 Other color combinations used a check within a check to produce an illusion of complexity.All of the .4.) 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 6 12 18 24 30 36 42 48 4 8 12 16 20 24 28 32 36 40 44 48 So far the drawdowns have been in groups of light.. then reversed to dark light. 16 20 24 28 32 designs and color combinations to be used as estate “uniforms. See literature on Scottish Distric Checks for detailed information on this subject. The next 6 12 18 24 30 combination of color groups 4 is done in groups of 8 three lights. the Lowland people adopted various 8 32 . 12 three darks 16 or more 20 threads in each group 24 as desired. Instead of weaving the warp as drawn in.2.3.” The colors were usually muted to blend in with the countryside while hunting and some were “copyrighted” as to pattern and colors. Others used only the warp for color design while weaving the weft with a colid color.

the choice of weft yarn is crucial to the success of covering the warp—it should be the right thickness and soft enough to pack down well. The warp is widely spaced. Many of the patterns can be varied by using a mixture of sizes of weft. pick up methods may be used to augment the design. A stick or sword is used to form the shed and then to pack the weft down as the shed is closed. Many wonderful colors can be put into the warp and in addition. This form of tapestry is called hatching and the alternating grey and white stripes show a form of blending. This means that the weft will push up the warp threads to form ridges which can be either large or small according to the size of the weft thread used.Warp face plain weave A whole study of Rep weaves can be found in Bibiane April Proulx’ book Reps. strong and will become covered by the weft. Pick up (as seen on page 2) can add to the scope of the patterning. Another method of weaving plain weave is to use an inkle loom on which you must raise and lower the two sheds using a sword or stick. Although it is written in French. The shed is formed by threading the warp alternately through heddles and then manipulating the shed by pushing up or down as the plain weave is formed. Determining the warp set in rep weaves requires that the warp be the dominant feature of the weave so it must be set close enough to cover the weft. the diagrams and pictures should be sufficient to understand and proceed with the methods used. all of which give a great amount of versatility for designing free form tapestry. The sample found to the right shows several techniques that do not have the weft passing from selvage to selvage but being worked into shapes and joined with the background. 9 Weft face plain weave Weft face plain weave is most often found in rugs and tapestries. Experimentation will be necessary to find the best yarn. .

The loops may be varied in height or shaded with several colors for ornamental appearance. The picture above shows pile constructions which can be trimmed or left long for shag appearance.A plain weave ground can be used as the base for knotted. To the right is a looped technique which usually give a slightly tighter more compact appearance. Yarn can be threaded through the skips in the picked up areas and traced in a path around the skipped areas. looped and other types of raised textured effects such as those used in rugs and wall hangings. Note the “knitted” effect of twining yarn around warp threads for a raised cable view. Many more applications can be applied to plain weave so let the imagination roam freely in your weaving. New threads combined with old threads may produce some exciting results. Most of these applications will be for the advanced weaver as the learning curve in mastery of the stitches. We all have some stunning successes and sadly. hemstitching. Another possibility for using plain weave is to space the warp in the reed by leaving empty dents and by cramming other warp threads so that several threads are placed in one dent. . Usually these effects should be used in small quantities. Embroidery techniques like pulled threads. insertion of shi shi mirrors and so on can be used to decorate plain weave. Try the new elastic threads combined with the old mercerized cottons to produce a seersucker effect—pull some threads to gather the fabric— don’t be afraid to try something new. such as the triangular corner of hemstitching at the bottom of the sample on the right. Borders or inserts for clothing can add the touch that makes the fabrics or garments a success. The pattern can be “invented” to suit if the path of the threaded yarn is varied. Planning for the ornamentation should be done before the weaving begins as it may need to be placed in strategic areas to become most effective. some failures that are only fit for the trash can! 10 Embroidery on the Loom A form of ornamentation that is rarely used with plain weave is a combination of pick up (not necessary if more shafts are used) and needle weaving. The fabric can then be woven with a plain weave or woven as sleyed by using spacers to separate the weft threads. placement in the fabric and color application will be needed to achieve a well coordinated textile.

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